French judo completes Olympics in apotheosis | On the carpet!

With the gold medals won by Emilie Andeol (+78 kg) and Teddy Riner (+100 kg), Friday, August 12, France finished second judo nation, far behind Japan.

Teddy Riner and Emilie Andeol, at the club France, August 12, in Rio. Photo: AFP.

Teddy Riner and Emilie Andeol, at the club France, August 12, in Rio. Photo: AFP.

There are these reversals that bring tears to your eyes. French judo has experienced one, as rarely in its history, at the very end of the Olympic Games in Rio. Wednesday night, after seeing many of its medal potential (Walide Khyar, Loïc Pietri or Gévrise Emane) go to the trap in their first fight, France posted only one medal on the clock. And if it was not the gold promised to Clarisse Agbegnenou, the tricolor staff gladly happy with the money brought by the 2014 world champion -63 kg. “There, we took a cap,” sighed, dubious, Jean-Claude Senaud, the national technical director, anticipating a probable Berezina for these Olympics. Lucidity obliged him to do it. Apart from Teddy Riner, favorite to his own succession in heavy (+100 kg), who would now save the French judo?

The answer was quick to arrive, finally. Thursday, August 11, Audrey Tcheuméo (-78 kg) and Cyrille Maret (-100 kg) debuted in the Arena Carioca 2 with the intention to make a blow. But we could doubt their ability to seek victory, they who, so often, mentally flinched at the big deadlines. In 2015, at the World Championships in Astana, the Burgundian remained on a traumatic defeat while the bronze held out his arms. As for Audrey Tcheuméo, who is still awaiting the best since his world title torn in 2011 in Paris, his mental problems have often been the reason for his motivation.

Cyrille Maret. Photo: AFP

Cyrille Maret. Photo: AFP

And then our two judokas chained the towers. If Tcheuméo managed to reach the final to finally give the title well deserved American Kayla Harisson, more determined to keep his due (she was title holder), the feat of the day was to put in the account of Cyrille Maret. Despite defeating the elegant (and unbeatable) Czech Lukas Krpalek, who was finally going to win the gold medal, the 29-year-old Frenchman pulled himself together to get the bronze to the dismay of his German opponent Karl-Richard Frey . Yet it was the trap battle par excellence for Maret, opposed to this very good technician. Haunted by the fear of failure that he so often experienced at this stage, Teddy Riner’s friend took the fight in hand. And to rule out any possibility of coming home with a chocolate medal, he atomized his opponent on a sumptuous o-soto-gari. A saving movement that made the audience jump, sending its author to seventh heaven. Finally, Cyrille Maret is no longer this “looser magnificent”, this judoka full of talent to promises always aborted, this athlete “aspiring champion” to “palmares virgin” as he kept saying, with lucidity, during interviews.

Emilie Andeol, one day, an exploit

The tri-colored clan was picking up colors. In his purse, a little more money and bronze. With the announced gold Teddy Riner, the Blues save the furniture by finishing third behind Russia, untouchable now with its two gold medals. Yes, but it was forget a little fast Emilie Andeol, the discreet judoka of Champigny. And for good reason, not even her coaches saw her getting invited to the final of the Olympic Games. Authors of two first heavy fights won at penalties, the heavy (+78 kg) seemed in a day without, crying out of his duels hard won.

Emilie Andeol. Photo: AFP

And then, there was this saving break of a few hours when his coach Christophe Massina had to go back to block. In the semifinal, facing the reigning world champion, the Chinese Song Yu, Emilie Andeol had become another person, a warrior. So much so that she stuck on her back with a samurai o-uchi-gari. She, the “heavy” of 98 kg, had rocked a mountain of 130 kg. In the final, it was tighter against Cuban Idalys Ortiz, the reigning Olympic champion. The game was played a lot in the guard and extended to the golden score. Clinging … And exciting, it must be recognized, so much Emilie Andeol put the heart to the book not to let slip this golden opportunity. On a sweep of the Frenchwoman, the Cuban flanked. And if there was no mark on the board, the Campinoise seized the opportunity to immobilize her opponent. Twenty seconds later, the native of Bordeaux became the sixth Olympic champion in French judo, the first in this category.

“My career is atypical, we will not lie to each other. I demonstrated to everyone, and to me first, what I was able to do, “ reacted Andeol who managed at the same time another feat: stealing the show from Teddy Riner. A good foothold for this under-meditated judoka, accustomed more than others to evolve in the shadow of the heavy king in that she always used to fight the same day as him. Now, she has another point in common with the world judo star and can boast of an Olympic title, like him. Better, she showed him the way.

Teddy Riner. Photo: AFP

Teddy Riner. Photo: AFP

Riner does not need to be given direction. The road to victory, he knows it by heart, accustomed to gold medals for nine years now. After 127 fights without the slightest defeat, six years of unbeaten, the eight-time heavyweight world champion was not going to stumble in this way. Especially not against the Japanese Harasawa who had sworn to have his skin. At first, the French put an infernal pressure on the Nippon who bowed to the ground as soon as the unstoppable guard Riner was installed. A penalty fell for his opponent, then a second. Rather than attempting the devil trying to place a pawn, the heavy king quietly assured his title. In this business, he was well helped by his competitor who did not try anything.

On the second step of the podium, the one who had introduced himself that the only man able to “dethrone Riner” lowered his head. Like all the Japanese before him – except for Daiki Kamikawa, the last to beat him in 2010 – Harasawa swallowed his defeat that remained across his throat. Teddy Riner is indeed this exceptional champion who, at 27, is still called to reign for years on the category queen. Until Tokyo Olympics, in 2020, at least. In the Land of Judo, the French will try to match the record of three titles held by the Japanese Nomura. And finally, he will be able to say that “he who exceeds him is not yet born” .

With five medals (2 in gold, 2 in silver and one in bronze), France gets away with a positive balance of these Olympics. Japan, untouchable first nation with twelve medals, including three gold, erases the failure of London where he had won only one title. His dominion is embodied in a young athlete from Tenri who splashed his talent on the judo planet. At the age of 24, Shohei Ono flew over the category of -73 kg by raising the discipline to the rank of art. His sumptuous techniques and his judo champagne decided cruelly with the fights, too numerous during these Olympics, which ended on penalties or the golden score.